By Mike Ridaught
What a ride this year during our extensive high school basketball coverage. We began broadcasting basketball games in mid-December and finally concluded our coverage last weekend at the SIAA Tournament at The Rock (Gainesville).
There were 50 high school basketball games that we broadcast over a three week period: the Kiwanis Christmas Tournament at Bradford (Starke), followed by the Kingdom of the Sun at Vanguard (Ocala) and Robert Moramarco’s girls’ tournament in Gainesville. Plus, we broadcast other regular season games in January & February, followed by the FHSAA Girls & Boys Basketball Finals in Lakeland the last two weeks of February.
That’s a lot of basketball.
There were buzzer beaters, season ending injuries, one of the best dunks I’ve seen in a long, long time at the high school level (see for yourself – video below) – and more. We got to see Michael Fraser (UF signee) and Kasey Hill (junior, UF commit) of Montverde Academy, Lake Highland Prep’s (Orlando) super sophomore guard Joel Berry and Holmes’ County’s Chris Walker, the 2nd-ranked junior in the country, among others. It was a season of memories.
It also marked the first year of basketball with the additional classes. Some people like it, but others do not. I do like the fact that it gives more teams a chance to play for a state title – such as a Hawthorne or Union County. What I wish I could see would be a tournament of champion’s postseason tournament where all the state champions would be seeded 1-8 and play each other for the ultimate state championship. It probably won’t ever happen but an Ely-Lake Wales or Lake Wales-Orlando Christian Prep match-up would pack an arena in central Florida.
For now, I’m happy that we have holiday tournaments to look forward to, both in the winter and in the spring. We look forward to basketball tournaments in the winter, but now we turn our attention to baseball and softball in the spring.
Our spring tournament coverage took us to Jacksonville as we broadcast the first two games of the Tournament of Champions from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. The tournament is comprised of former state champions like Eagle’s View (Jacksonville) and Providence (Jacksonville) locally, along with defending state champions North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) and Bishop Verot (Ft. Myers). We’ll broadcast the final day of the tournament (two games) from the Baseball Grounds in downtown Jacksonville on St. Patrick’s Day.
After a day off, we’ll head south to Ocala for the Big Sun Challenge. Host Vanguard is joined by Trinity Catholic (Ocala), North Marion (Citra) and Williston. We’ll broadcast three games each day the first three days, followed by the two final games on Thursday.
Basketball may be over, but our extensive coverage is not. With a weekly high school show, ‘live’ game baseball and softball coverage, plus the inaugural softball Prep Zone Power Poll to go along with our baseball poll, we’ll be busy bringing you exciting local high school sports coverage.